The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally getting serious about investigating the links between the National Rifle Association and the Kremlin. The Daily Beast is reporting that the committee has requested all documents related to the NRA’s interactions with Russia, including the trip that some of its top executives made to Moscow in 2015.
The information about the document request comes from two sources with knowledge of the committee’s activities, but neither the NRA nor the committee’s ranking members on either side of the aisle have commented on their report.
Questions regarding the connection between the gun lobbying organization and the Russian government have mounted since the indictment of Maria Butina — a woman who worked closely with the NRA through her role in running Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights organization — as an undeclared Kremlin intelligence agent.
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Butina invited an NRA delegation for a week-long visit to Moscow just months before the 2016 U.S. presidential election where the gun-rights lobbyists met with two figures with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin: Alexander Torshin, a senior leader at Russia’s powerful central bank, and former deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin. Both men are currently subject to sanctions by the United States.
The people in the NRA posse included their former President David Keene and their next president Peter Brownell, as well as Milwaukee Sheriff and noted Trump acolyte David Clarke, NRA donors Jim Gregory and Arnold and Hilary Goldschlager, and Jim Liberatore, the president and CEO of the Outdoor Channel.
The Senate Intelligence Committee isn’t the first Congressional panel looking into the NRA’s financial ties to Moscow. The Senate Finance Committee has been investigating the visit to Russia and the money received by the NRA from the Kremlin and other Russian sources since the last year when the visit was first revealed.
The NRA hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about the financial ties it’s developed with Russia. Initially, the notoriously militant gun rights lobbyists denied accepting any money whatsoever from Russian sources.
However, they were forced to backtrack last April when the NRA General Counsel John Frazer finally admitted in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that they had received “a total of approximately $2512.85 from people associated Russian addresses” and “about $525” from two Russian citizens who currently were living in the U. S.
They also admitted to receiving an unspecified amount of “membership dues” from the Russian central banker Alexander Torshin as part of his lifetime membership in the organization.
The NRA declined to offer more information than they told Wyden, claiming that it was too difficult to do more than they already had.
“[G]iven the extraordinarily time-consuming and burdensome nature of your requests, we must respectfully decline to engage in this beyond the clear answers we have already provided,” Frazer wrote told Wyden.
Shortly after this exchange, Maria Butina was arrested, raising even more questions about the exact nature of the relationship between the strident promoters of preventing any reasonable gun regulations and the agents of the country that hacked the presidential election process to install the candidate that the NRA was strongly supporting.
Until the NRA ponies up any additional documents that they found it too bothersome to provide when they were first requested, we can only speculate as to the true nature of the relationship between the NRA and Russia and as to whether a foreign government used the organization to launder its financial contributions to Republican politicians whom it was courting to eliminate the sanctions that were primarily hurting the Kremlin’s most prominent oligarchs
In the meantime, patriotic Americans would do well to try to undo the damage that has been inflicted on the country since our last tainted election by going to the polls, checking your ballot to make sure that it hasn’t been surreptitiously switched by a faultily programmed electronic voting system, and electing Democrats who can put a stop to the national con job being attempted by Putin’s best friend in the White House.
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Original reporting by Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast.